Tuesday, 22 August 2017


“The function of the university is not simply to teach bread-winning, or to furnish teachers for the public schools, or to be a center of polite society; it is, above all, to be the organ of that fine adjustment between real life and the growing knowledge of life, and adjustment which forms the secret of civilization”.– W.E.B. Du Bois.

For republican institutions to function progressively, they had to be continually modified.

--- Thomas Jefferson.

The university is an institution where the highest academic qualification can be obtained. It is also an institution that is supposed to prepare graduates for the professional needs of a complex and technological society. Although Nigerian universities are producing graduates in large numbers in sciences, engineering and technology and other fields, they are not prepared for the professional needs of a complex and technological society due to lack of standard laboratories, lack of good libraries, lack of good instructional material, poor university funding among others.

 The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is a patriotic union that wants the growth of Nigeria not only educationally but economically and otherwise. But since most Nigerian leaders are unpatriotic to Nigeria, they don’t care about what happens to Nigerian education. Because of avarice, most of them are hankering for a wealthy lifestyle and have partially or completely turned their back on Nigerian education and other sectors. ASUU is not only fighting for the university system to be revitalized but also other institutions of learning. Once the universities in Nigeria are well equipped and improved upon, other institutions of learning will also be taken care of so that academic achievements will be great in Nigeria and will have potent impact on the nation and the entire world.

ASUU had gone on many strikes in the past but such strikes did little to move the Federal government into action. When the ASUU challenged came up, the Federal Ministry of Education (FME), again, did not handle matters in a coordinated way. The university teachers have been having issues with the federal government since 1992, and Adamu was not the first Minister to have been confronted with the challenge. But when a largely uncoordinated FME team decided to take up issues a highly experienced ASUU side, it became clear that a stalemate would occur.

It is painful to note that over the years, the education sector has been characterized by endless strikes without any hope of addressing the inherent problems even when the country has what it takes to put things right.

The former president of ASUU, Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie in June, 2009 said that the federal government’s lack of seriousness forced the strike option on the dons. According to him, in December, 2006, the Federal Ministry of Education inaugurated the FGN/ASUU Re-negotiation team, chaired by Mr. Gamaliel Onosode, with a single term of reference of re-negotiating the 2001 FGN/ASUU Agreement. The 2001 agreement dwelt on increased funding of the university sector, university autonomy and academic freedom, 70 years retirement age for academic staff, as well as salaries and conditions of service.

Shortly after the three-month industrial action embarked upon by ASUU was suspended, Awuzie warned the Federal Government to avoid any action and situation that are capable of destroying the existing harmony among the unions on the campuses and affecting the attainment of vision 2020. He made it clear that if Nigerian university system is not revitalized by the Federal Government, it will be impossible for Nigeria to become a great nation without it.

The present president of ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi has been on the same page with Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie as he was in 2009 about the ASUU demands. And the failure of federal government to meet its demands forced another strike.

No nation can achieve greatness without education. There is no country that can be a great nation without standard education. If  political leaders think that there are shortcuts to being a great nation, then they must be day-dreaming.

ASUU is patriotic to Nigeria because it knows that without standard education, Nigeria’s anticipated greatness will be far-fetched so it wants the leaders to put things right to make most Nigerian students to be competitive internationally and more productive.

There are a lot of things the Federal Government needs to learn from countries that used education to become super powers today. And one of such countries is the United States of America.

The years from 1870 to the beginning of World War I in 1914 saw the United States transformed from a predominantly agricultural to an industrial society. America’s industrialization generated momentous alterations in the national character and economy and in the nation’s social and educational institutions. The federal, state, and local governments used education to encourage industrialization.

During the prosperity of the 1920s, government, education, and society in general encouraged individual initiative and action. The role of education was to prepare the agents of the new prosperity: the inventors, investors, entrepreneurs, and corporate leaders of the new economic order. Education administration, in particular, modeled itself along business and corporate lines. For many school administrators, schools were to run as effectively and efficiently as business.

If the federal government wants Nigeria to be a great nation, then it must approve adequate funds for modernization of Nigerian institutions of learning. Funds should be made available for most lecturers and other educators to further their education or conduct research abroad or study the school systems of all the countries that are world powers today and recommend areas that should be incorporated in Nigerian universities, colleges, secondary and elementary schools. The federal government should also provide funds that will create an environment that will accommodate the aspects to be incorporated. Nigerian university system and other educational systems need complete transformation especially in science, engineering and technology. ASUU wants complete transformation of the university system because it is a patriotic union that knows that university is the bedrock of knowledge and development.

In October 1957, the Soviet Union launched a space satellite, Sputnik, into orbit around the earth. The initial American reaction to Sputnik was a skeptical disbelief that the supposedly technologically backward Soviets could have beaten the United States in the race into space. This initial reaction led to a public search for the internal weaknesses that had caused the United States to lose its hitherto unquestioned scientific and technological superiority over the Soviet Union. Although critics such as Bestor, Rafferty, and Rickover had been condemning the U.S. public school’s academic softness since the early 1950s, Sputnik stimulated widespread demands for more rigorous academic standards and programmes.

Sputnik broadened the debate over the quality and condition of American public education that had been going on since the early 1950s. In the broadened context of Sputnik, the discussion of American education, in professional as well as public circles, turned to priorities. If the United States were to meet the Soviet challenge, then it had to improve its scientific, engineering, and technological capabilities. There was a return to more rigorous academic subject matter; the emerging priorities also had a quantitative dimension in that more funds were to be expended to prepare more teachers for classrooms. The Sputnik era also anticipated the educational criticisms and reforms of the 1980s.

As the 1950s neared their end, the long-standing debate over federal aid to education was interrupted by fears that the United States was losing its scientific, technological, and educational superiority to the Soviet Union. The Soviet success in orbiting Sputnik and well-publicized American space failures at that time produced a mood of national crisis that “something was wrong with American schools”. Although grossly exaggerated by Cold War fears, this climate of opinion brought contentious factions together in congress to enact the National Defence Education Act (NDEA) in 1958. The NDEA rested on two premises: first, national security required the “fullest development of the mental resources and technical skills” of American youth. And second, the national interest required federal “assistance to education for programmes which are important to America’s national defence”. The NDEA also provided grants to the states to improve secondary school guidance and counseling programmes.

John F. Kennedy was elected president in 1960, a year when Cold War tensions remained high. In his State-Of-The-Union Address on January 30, 1961, Kennedy called for legislation to provide federal funding for public schools, higher education, basic research, and medical training. This was followed by his “Special Message to Congress on Education” in February, which outlined specific proposals for education, such as:

1.       federal assistance for elementary and secondary school construction and raising teachers’ salaries;
2.       federal loans to colleges and universities to construct student       housing;
3.       a programme to encourage scholarships for talented and needy college students;
4.       appointment of a commission to recommend improvements in vocational education.

In his educational message of 1962, President Kennedy advised Congress that significant advances in the discovery and transmission of knowledge needed to be translated into the school curriculum. While the institutes of the National Science Foundation and the Office of Education had helped to keep teachers up-to-date, Kennedy believed that the opportunities for attending these institutes were two limited. He also urged efforts to raise standards in teacher education programmes. The president stated that:

“… the key to educational quality is the teaching profession. About one out of every five of the nearly 1,600,000 teachers in our elementary and secondary schools fail to meet full certification standards for teaching or has not completed for years of college work. Our immediate concern should be to afford them every possible opportunity to improve their professional skills and their command of the subjects they teach”.

On January 23, 1963, Kennedy expressed his commitment to aid higher education when he said:

“Now a veritable tidal wave of students is advancing inexorably on our institutions of higher education, where the annual costs per student are several times as high as the cost of a high school education, and where these costs must be borne in large part by the student or his parents. Five years ago the graduating class of the secondary schools was 1.5 million; five years from now it will be 2.5 million. The future of these young people and nation rests in large part of their access to college and graduate education. For this country Founding Fathers called “an aristocracy of achievement arising out of a democracy of opportunity”.

The phrase “a democracy of opportunity” demonstrated Kennedy’s determination to provide greater access to higher education for more students. His use of the term “an aristocracy of intellect” reflected his resolution that, although enrollments were increasing, American higher education would maintain its standards of excellence. Under the auspices of the Kennedy administration, the Higher Education Facilities Act of 1963 was passed. In focusing attention on the need for expanded facilities, President Kennedy stated:

“The long-predicted crisis in higher education facilities is now at hand. For the next fifteen years, even without additional student aid, enrollment increases in colleges will average 340,000 each year. If we are to accommodate the projected enrollment of more than 7 million college students by 1970 – a doubling during the decade - $23 billion of new facilities will be needed, more than three times the quantity built during the preceding decade. This means that unless we are to deny higher education opportunities to our youth, American colleges and universities must expand their academic facilities at a rate much faster than their present resources will permit”.

The Higher Education Facilities Act of 1963 provided grants to colleges and universities to construct buildings, laboratories, libraries and other facilities. The act made private and church-related as well as public institutions eligible for federal aid. However, facilities constructed in church related institutions were limited to those being used for instruction or research in the natural or physical sciences, mathematics, modern foreign languages, engineering, library use, or other secular areas.

The Higher Education Act of 1962, enacted during the Johnson administration, provided federal funding for community service and continuing education programmes, college libraries and library training and research, developing institutions, and student assistance. It offered grants to qualified high school graduates the exceptional financial need who could not afford to attend a college or university.

After his landslide victory over Senator Barry Goldwater, the Republican candidate, in the election of 1964, Lyndon Baines Johnson, who wanted to be   known as the “education president” moved to get general federal aid to education legislation enacted by Congress since 1945 efforts at general federal aid to education had failed in Congress.

Johnson was successful in getting congress to enact the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), an aid bill that provided more than $1 billion in federal funds to assist schools. Although still categorical, ESEA was broad in scope. As part of Johnson’s War on poverty, the major thrust of the ESEA sought to equalize educational opportunities, especially in inner-city and rural poverty areas.

The federal government needs to comprehensively understand that standard education is what has made the United States the world’s most political and industrial world power and has given it the reputation it has today. When Soviet Union launched Sputnik in October 1957, the U.S. did rigorous reforms in its educational system which made it to have the first and second men (Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin) to land on the moon, on July 20, 1969, including other inventions.

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